A Lifetime Impact
I grew up close to the land as the son of a farmer. Each year the miracle of the earth coming alive in the spring never ceased to amaze me and nearby woodlands and streams gave me many opportunities to wander into wonder. Yet it was my fun loving and much loved high school biology teacher, John Monsma from Canada, who helped me connect my love of nature with a desire for earth-keeping. (For those of you who appreciate playing the connection game, John is the uncle of Gayle Monsma, Executive Director of the Prairie Centre in Alberta, and of the late educator Doug Monsma, who worked to develop the Teaching for Transformation model.)
Mr. Monsma not only taught us sex ed in 10th grade biology class and how to make a great slap shot in floor hockey, but organized the first Earth Day observance at my small Christian high school. It was decided that the whole school was going to take the afternoon off and clean up the major roads between our small town and the bigger city to the west. As I reflect back now as a former school administrator I wonder about what conversations must have happened at the teacher, admin, and school board levels to make this happen. Of course we didn’t worry about liability of having kids next to a busy road or signed parent waivers and the need for police escorts - it was the 70’s! As you can see in the yearbook photo below at the start of our work, we were ready for action! Can you spot me in the picture?
We had a very successful day - picking up litter on 30 miles of roads in our community. It felt like we were living out our faith by what we did to bless our larger community. But it was more than just a day’s activity for me - the day made a lifelong impact on me and helped me to realize I could do something personally to help restore God’s creation to beauty and to make a difference. As some of you know, one of my favorite activities, by myself or with family or friends, is to do some beauty restoration on neglected areas that no one seems to take responsibility for to keep clean. It is a joyful and productive thing to do - I get to enjoy creation without paying greens fees or killing any animals and I always come home with a full catch!
The early 1970’s were a time of turbulence and change and as high school kids we wanted to make a difference in our world. Considering the problems we faced in our world at that time, we should celebrate the progress that has been made but resolve to equip our children and grandchildren to do even better. I believe students today want to make a difference - how are we empowering kids and how are we challenging them to take action? The experiences we create and or give them freedom to do may impact them for a lifetime!
One of the recent developments in education locally that I appreciate is how students are given opportunity to love creation through learning that takes place primarily in outdoor settings. I hope to share more about this in a future post.
I leave you to contemplate some verses of a song we sang regularly in chapel during my high school years:
As long as men on earth are living and trees are yielding fruits on earth,
You are our Father, thanks we give You for all that owes to you its birth.
You are the one who clothed the flowers, You feed the birds in all the land,
You are our shelter: all my hours and all my days are in your hand.
Therefore let all the world adore you, it is your love that brought it forth,
You live among us, we before you. Your offspring are we. Praise the Lord!
Words: Huub Oosterhuis, English version by C.M. DeVries
An invitation from Steven and Joanna Levy - join us in our summer institute! Space is still available.
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